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Concert Reviews:
A Wild Night In Detroit Rock City

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2007

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There was far more heaven then hell for metro area music fans Saturday night (May 12th), as a trio of major concerts delivered a memorable -- if logistically challenging -- evening in Detroit Rock City.

For most, of course, the option was to attend one of the three -- Heaven and Hell (aka Black Sabbath) at Cobo Arena, Velvet Revolver a the Royal Oak Music Theatre and a Southern rock throwdown of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., and .38 Special at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But checking in at each indicated that nobody was likely to complain about their lot.

The headbanging set represented well at Cobo, despite a disappointingly small crowd that was no doubt due to confusion over the Heaven and Hell name -- which the band, Black Sabbath's third lineup, had chosen rather than risk legalities with original singer Ozzy Osbourne and his camp. Following a typically blistering set by Megadeth, the H&H crew -- fronted by the resonant tenor of singer Ronnie James Dio -- offered up doomy but muscular metal on a stage decked out like a gothic church courtyard, complete with faux brick, lanterns and gargoyles.

Bolstered by a keyboardist hidden off to one corner, H&H sounded like no time had past since it last toured (1992) and celebrated Dio's three studio albums with the band via leaden favorites such as "The Mob Rules," "Lady Evil," "I," "Voodoo," "The Sign of the Southern Cross" and "Children of the Sea," which Dio introduced as the first song written when he joined the group in 1980. Guitarist Tony Iommi was never at a loss for flashy but tasteful solos, and H&H threw some new wrinkles into the mix with the three fresh songs it recorded for the new compilation, "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years."

Up at the Velvet Revolver bash in Royal Oak, a capacity crowd was lost in the ebullience of seeing a platinum act -- whose members hail from Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots -- in a small venue. The loud, sweaty ambience seemed to stoke the quintet as well, which overcame a wretched sound mix to kick out 80 energetic minutes of meat 'n' potatoes hard rock.

Led by shirtless frontman Scott Weiland's frenetic stage presence and top-hatted lead guitarist Slash's fierce solos, Velvet Revolver revisited favorites from its 2004 debut "Contraband," including the ringing power ballad "Fall to Pieces," a hot version of the group's first single, "Set Me Free" and the show-closer "Slither." It also previewed songs from its upcoming "Libertad," which is due out July 3 -- and was played for fans outside the theater as they were leaving the show on Saturday.

But Velvet Revolver really scored late in the show, when everyone -- crowd and band alike -- was appropriately loose and the covers came out. The group touched on its heritage with STP's "Vaseline" and GNR's "Used to Love Her" and also nodded to a few influences with encore renditions of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and a thumping, metallic take on Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer."

And up a the Palace? Well, the South, as Charlie Daniels is fond of saying, did it again. And so did local boy Kid Rock, a good pal of the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Jr. camps, who got up on stage with the latter -- sporting a Red Wings T-shirt and white fedora -- for a jovial take on Hank Williams, Sr.'s seminal "Hey, Good Lookin'."

So say what you will about auto company layoffs, the economy, gas prices, the real estate market...On this night, Detroit Rock City ruled.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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